Archive for 2014_japan

Review of our 2014 Japan Hokkaido Trip

Before the tour
Back in 2012, Hokkaido was one of the destination we considered for our Honeymoon trip, and would likely have been our choice if not for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. Although a nuclear disaster typically takes more than a decades to clear off, and that would not have made it any safer for us to visit Japan in 2014 (with just a 3 years span apart), but we believe that the risks of short term exposure is minimal. Logic being we will only be there for 11 days and if there would be such serious side effect, then most of the Japanese should have been dead after 1,000+ days (3 years) of constant exposure. While it is not 100% risks free, we felt that it is not that dangerous to visit this beautiful country, especially Hokkaido being quite a distant away. However we took the necessary precautions and dropped the idea of bringing Jevriel along, which later turned out to be the correct decision. The trip would have been much tougher and we would have seen much lesser if he had tagged along. Furthermore he is barely 2 years old at our point of travel and he probably would not fully appreciate or even remember those places.

Amber had been to Japan several times but this is my first visit. Given that Hokkaido is a place that hold its beauty throughout the 4 seasons, we had to decide the time of visit. Initially we planned for Summer (August) as Amber wanted to view those lavender farms in Furano. I was unable to redeem our Krisflyer tickets in time and we had to make plans for Autumn (October) instead. Both of us had never view Autumn folio and this became a much anticipated holiday.

With our experience from our 2012 Europe free & easy, I was confident that we could do a much more enjoyable Hokkaido holiday than to engage a tour guide. After listening to the experiences of friends and some reading up, I figured that a self drive trip is the best way to experience the beauty of Hokkaido. Self drive provides flexibility to be almost anywhere we wanted but it is still important to have good planning and an itinerary that maximize the efficiency of driving long distance. It took me around 2 months or so to nail down the itinerary. Along the way it had changed whenever I read something new, or when the route does not make sense to be accommodated into the entire flow. By and large I still kept most of the key places and this is how it look like:

Hokkaido (Asahikawa) -> (Furano) -> (Noboribetsu) -> (Lake Toya) -> (Sapporo) -> Tokyo

Therefore my travel log is based on our research and actual experience of the places during Autumn over end October. It does not serve as a detailed planning tool for these countries, but more so as a memory keep sake for as travel logs. However you should still be able to benefit from some of my research, useful links, and my actual experience.

 

Country & Culture
Japan is very clean and organized. However it is pretty difficult to locate public dustbins. It seems like Japanese keep their trash in their bags and dispose them when they are back home/in office. While dustbins are rare in sight, it is not impossible to find one. Typically, toilets, fast food outlets, and shopping malls have dustbins. You do find some bins along the road but they are not at every lane/junction like how it is back in Singapore. Please do not litter just because you are unable to find a bin. It will be good to always keep some plastic bags obtained from purchases as they do come in handy.

Japanese are polite and there is great emphasize on not causing inconvenience or disturbance to others. Many places such as public transports and restaurants have signs instructing non usage of mobile phone. This is to keep the volume down. It does not mean you are not allow to talk in public but it is not desired to talk loudly. Common sense would tell you that you should not be shouting or using the car hone unnecessary as these are considered as rude actions. Throughout my days of driving and travelling in Japan, I have not heard a single horn.

Japan is a safe country and you are unlikely to be robbed, pick-pocketed, extorted or scammed. In fact items left unattended are usual still unattended or return to the original owner when found. There is no need to separate your cash or hide your money using security money pouches. However do still exercise some basic level of travel common sense as you ought to be responsible for your well being. You will find that even in red light districts such as Susukino in Hokkaido, and Kabukicho in Tokyo are pretty safe to walk around, as long as you do not intentionally look for trouble. Those Yakuza pimps generally do not disturb foreigners thought the niggers pimps would approach foreigners. Just kind decline if you do not need such entertainment. After all, real Japanese ladies do not service foreigners. Only foreign imported ladies service foreigners.

Except for rural or remote areas, you should be able to find convenient stores easily. They are everywhere in towns and cities and the most common seen in Hokkaido is Lawson. Do note that their convenient stores do not open 24hrs like ours back. They usually operates from 6am to 12am.

It probably would be an endless list of things to talk about Japan and its culture. Thus I would not go to such an extend but instead mention Onsen as the last item under this segment. Onsen, or hotspring, is a big thing for the Japanese. It is one of the favourite pastime and not surprising that some Japanese visit the onsen everyday. There is certain rules about using these public bath and some behaviors are a strict no-no. Some key points are:

  • Anyone with tattoos would be deny from entering the pool
  • You need to wash/bath thoroughly before entering the pool
  • Do not drip the towel in the pool

You can get a better grasp of the do’s and don’ts here.

 

Weather
As mentioned we visited Hokkaido during Autumn. Temperature varies depending on areas and time of the day. Generally we experienced temperature around 10 to 20°C, and it went as long as single digit °C when it rained/during the night. Winter wear is recommended if you are going to scale some mountains, and it is wise to have several layers of clothing that can be adjusted according to the temperature. We had with us a maximum of 4 layers (thermal, normal cloth, cashmere, coat) if needed.

Another important factor for planning is the timing for sun rise/set. I forgotten about this part and planned our itinerary based on 7pm sunset, which we then got a shock when the sky was total darkness by 6pm. During autumn, the sun starts to set around 5.30pm, so plan well and make sure you are not strangled after nightfall. Driving during the night in cities and towns is alright but rural areas aren’t well lighted and you might be driving in complete darkness in mountainous areas. Exercise caution and drive slower during low light and rainy days.

 

Food
Food generally cost more than Singapore. Or rather Singapore has cheaper food due to our culture of coffee-shops and hawker centres, which are not found in many other countries. Clearly Japan does not have such concepts and their cheaper meal are mainly fast food and small eatery that cost around ¥500+ (SGD6). I would consider Ramen and some of the simpler Don as economy food, which cost around ¥800+ (SGD9.50). A typical Japanese cuisine in a restaurant would cost around ¥2,000 (SGD23.50). If you order some seafood dishes, then it is pretty normal to see bills getting near to ¥4,000 (SGD47). Eating pure seafood dishes can cost up to ¥6,000 (SGD70) or more, depending on what you order.

One thing to note is Japanese has a habit of taking breakfast at home. Thus, restaurants and food outlet generally only opens after 11am, with very few outlets opening at 10.30am. This is a concern if you do not have a breakfast package in your hotel stay and you would need the convenience stores if you are planning to drive out early in the morning.

 

Shopping and Money matters
While shopping, I noticed many clothes, shoes, and accessories that were made in China, Vietnam and other countries. So while Japan pride itself for its high quality of goods, it does not mean that Japanese do not import items made from other places. Shopping is not my expertise so I shall not comment much on this. Just note that tax is charge at 8% of purchase across merchandise items in department stores, as well as food in most restaurants and convenient stores. Note that the consumption tax rate is scheduled to increase to 10% in October 2015. There is a duty tax scheme for tourists – effective when making purchases of over ¥10,000 (SGD117) at a given store on 1 calendar day. In case of consumable goods, such as foods, medicines and cosmetics, the consumption tax is waived for purchases of over ¥5,000 (SGD58), but the package of such goods must be kept unbroken until after departure from Japan. A passport is required when shopping tax free. Note that at some shops, it is necessary to first pay the full price at the cashier and then obtain a refund at a customer service desk.

Japanese Yen comes in super big denomination. They have notes denominating in ¥1,000, ¥5,000, and ¥10,000. They have coins denominating in ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100, ¥500. During my time of travel, I had an exchange rate of SGD 1 = ¥85.

 

People and Languages
Working adults in the cities are smartly dressed in suits. The ladies and younger ones are fashionable and well dressed. Many of the girls are really Kawaii and you are hardly able to find any lady without makeup. The same does not apply as much when you get to the rural or remote places.

Most of the tourists areas have English speaking staffs. It should not be an issue to travel Japan even if you do not know any Japanese. Just pick up some common words or bring along a dictionary (nowadays we are highly digitalised so just install such an app in your smartphone or tablet). 2 of the most commonly used word would be すみません “su-mi-masen” (excuse me) and ありがとう “a-ri-ga-to” (thank you). In you need help, just smile and point to things you wish to buy or communicate with/about. But don’t point at people in their faces, as that is rude. Bowing is a form of respect and commonly practice in the service industry.

Japanese are conscious about hygiene and it is not uncommon to see them having face masks. Do cover your mouth when you sneeze and wear a mask if you are feeling unwell or coughing. Do not cough loudly without excusing yourself and do not spit or dig your nose in public. Basically do not perform those unsightly Chi-na Chinese behaviors. Sorry if you are one and reading my site. I meant no offense (but too bad if you are offended) but people from that country are infamous for their uncouth and rowdy behaviors.

Many retail outlets and famous tourist outlets employ Chinese that speak Japanese. You can’t tell from appearance as they have blended into the society. Furthermore we all have similar skin tone and features. You will only realised it when they speak in a non Japanese language.

 

Photography
Canon and Nikon are both big time brands in the photography arena. Japan has produced some of the greatest photography equipment in history and has continue to create new technologies. I did not compare the prices of these equipment vs Singapore but I somehow read that it is cheaper to buy them back here. As for safety, you will not have any issue carrying expensive equipment around. It is highly unlikely that you would be robbed or targeted by crooks.

 

Driving and Car Rental
Their GPS system is very accurate and highly effective. Throughout our 6 days drive in Hokkaido, I only experienced 2 lapses in their system. Having a English menu GPS is a plus point but even if you can’t get your hands on it, you should still do find with a Japanese GPS. It is not too hard to figure out how to use the system. Do not attempt to do a self drive in Hokkaido without a GPS. It is the most precious asset you need, more than fuels. With a GPS, getting around destinations is easy when you have a telephone number of that destination. You can also enter code map but I found using telephone numbers much more accurate. Code map becomes more useful when you are travelling to areas that does not have any telephone numbers, such as a waterfall in some mountainous region.

Petrol in Hokkaido is generally cheaper than Singapore. The price for Regular petrol was roughly around ¥164 (SGD1.90) per liter during my time of visit. You need to pay toll charges for using the expressways and they do not come cheap, in fact rather expensive. Under the “useful links” section is a site I had used for planning my route.

Speed limit for most roads are 40km ~ 50km, with expressways up to 80km ~ 90km. Most people do not keep to the speed limit in the expressways and it is common to speed up to 120km and faster. Having said that, it is your choice to speed as traffic offence do not come cheap in Japan. Sames goes for illegal parking. If you are caught for any of these, do make sure you pay your fines at the police station before returning your rental car. Failing to do so will result in a higher charge by the rental company, which definitely do not make any money sense.

 

Places I enjoyed
I love the sights driving across mountainous areas that were blooming with colour of autumn. Sounkyo Gorge was worth the effort but unfortunately we had missed the autumn colour at the top. The outdoor onsen at Mount Tokachidake was heavenly. Lake Kuttara and Hell Valley in Noboribetsu are places that I would highly recommend. Some areas of Tokyo are pretty interesting as well but I will have to revisit them to get a better feel.

 

Necessary items
Depending on your time of travel, you will need different clothing. But the generic items should not be missed.

• Socket or power convertor for your gadgets (check it out here)
• Maps (or you can get it when you are at the hotels) – with Google Maps Engine highly preferred
• Simple Medication though they are easily accessible in towns/cities
• Photocopy of your important documents (just in case you need it for a report)
• A good pair of walking shoe
• A smaller backpack for carrying items when you are out for the day
• Umbrella
• Lip balm especially if you are from a more humid country

The rest of the necessity items like money and stuffs for shower should be a no brainer.

 

Useful links
Below are some of the links that I had used for planning and have found them helpful.

Transportation

Driving

Car Rental Sites

A very useful Japan Guide – Japan-Guide.com

Hokkaido Official Tourism Website – Visit Hokkaido

 

2014 Japan Trip Day 1 – Hokkaido : Asahikawa

3 Oct 2014

having my company’s corporate event at Shanghai Dollies before rushing back to pick up our luggages for a 1am flight. I was probably 50% drunk when we were on the plane, and this was my first time being intoxicated on a flight. It was rather fun 🙂

Our flight with SQ departed Singapore for a 7+ hours flight towards Nagoya and we landed in Chubu International Airport around 9am Japan time. We had a good 3 hours to stroll around the Nagoya airport before boarding our domestic ANA flight to Asahikawa Airport. Nagoya Chubu International Airport was where we started our first ramen (with many others to come) in Japan. The ordering concept is rather unique. We had to choose our orders at a vending machine and were issued with tickets for the chef to prepare our noodles. The ramen was decent but not overly fantastic. Each bowl of ramen cost around ¥800 (SGD9.40), which is the usual price in Japan but it only came with 1 piece of chashu. If you are not in the airport, the same price in other ramen shops would probably have gotten at least 3 pieces of chashu.

I stayed up the flight from Singapore to watch X Men : Days of Future Past, and the fatigue made me slept through the domestic flight to Asahikawa. From Asahikawa Airport, we took a bus (¥620 each) to Asahikawa Station. Being first time, we were unfamiliar with their transport system. There is a vending machine near the exit of Asahikawa Airport (it is a rather small airport and you will hardly miss this) which sell the bus tickets. There were around 10 people that boarded the bus but we were the only 2 that purchased tickets off that machine. We later learnt that you could have just pay the amount when you are alighting. The schedule for these buses are always about 15 minutes after each flight touch down, so it can be pretty tight if you are picking up luggage, going to the toilet, picking up maps, and still trying to figure out the ticket machine. It is safer to board the bus asap as the intervals can be more than an hour apart.

The walk from the Asahikawa Station to our hotel (Asahikawa Grand Hotel) was pretty quiet and we did not see many people or traffic. We felt that there wasn’t much shops or interesting things to do at that time. It started to rain when we left our hotel and the hotel staff was nice to lend us 2 umbrellas. The first thing that shocked us was the sun setting around 5pm. Given the late arrival, there wasn’t much to do except for a nice dinner. Having read reviews of the Asahikawa Ramen Village, that became our first checkpoint for Hokkaido. We boarded a train towards the the Minami Nagayawa Station and the sky was total darkness when we alighted at 5.30pm.

Unlike Asahikawa Station, the Minami Nagayawa Station was just a one track station with a small shelter as the “station”. I was shocked to see a 1 track station and my immediate reaction was to look for the station that has an opposite track. There was none in site. I took out my iPad and from Goggle Map, I verified our location and confirmed that there is only one station by the name of Minami Nagayawa Station. There was no other station in sight and I started to panic. All these while thinking that trains only travel in one direction and the track we took would be heading further away from Asahikawa Station.

Feeling lost, I checked with a Japanese lady who helped to confirm that last train heading back to Asahikawa Station was 7.45pm. I was asking how could I get back when it is a 1 track station but we could not really communicate in English vs Japanese. I had learnt basic Japanese years back but it was too limited to conduct a decent conversation. After awhile I got the sense that this is the station and the only 1 track would serve trains moving from both directions (was finding it hard to believe). While not too certain if we were correct about the station and having fear that we would be strangled if we missed the last train, we decided to take the leap of faith and walked towards the Ramen Village. We found the Ramen Village after a 15 minutes walk in the rain.

By looking at the photos, we could not really tell which is the best among the 8. I read from reviews that each has its own unique taste and and we eventually went into one that had quite a bit of customers, thinking that it must be good if the locals chose to dine there. During the meal, we realised that those customers were a bunch of family from China (which makes them tourists rather than locals), which render my concept of choosing the shop with the most amount of customers useless. The noodles tasted normal but their chashu was rather good. I also ordered Goyza but it was not as crispy or tasty as our Singapore version. This simple dinner cost ¥1,850 (SGD21.70). It was our first day in Japan so having ramen for both lunch and dinner was still pretty satisfying (it was only later that we gotten sick of ramen).

There were some department stores around and we went to Uniqlo where I purchased a sweater. We wanted to check out their Toys R Us but decided not to risk missing the last train. Indeed, at exactly 7.45pm, a train coming from the opposite direction picked us up and we were transported back to Asahikawa Station. We now know that this world has train station that operates like this, and felt pretty much like “mountain tortises”.

Amber’s boots cracked and the sole split when we were walking back to the hotel. It was really funny as she had to step higher in order to land on full sole. She seemed to be marching with a single leg. Due to this mishap I had to tweak tomorrow’s itinerary as she needed to get a new pair of footwear. The initial itinerary was to be collect our rental car at 8am and head straight to Sounkyo Gorge, follow up Mt Asahidake. These 2 destinations requires 4 hours of driving and would have taken up the whole of tomorrow. The problem was the departmental stores only open after 9.30am, and that delay would render it rather impossible to execute the initial itinerary. Left with no choice, I made some plans to push Mt Asahidake into Day 3. One of the good thing about free and easy travel, is the freedom to make changes if need be.

We got a mini cake from the bakery to celebrate our wedding anniversary (4 Oct), and officially started our first day of Japanese junk food (tibits).

I was determined to end the first night only after trying a Japanese Onsen. Some hotels provide it for free but for Asahikawa Grand Hotel, it costs ¥1,000 (SGD11.70). While I had done some research before the trip and do know that the Onsen for different gender is separate, I was caught by surprise when an old lady greeted me in the changing room. She did a quick tour to show me the lockers, the pools, and the lounge. The locker room is where one is supposed to undress and it was the same room that she was walking around. For a moment I kept thinking if I was suppose to undress in the pool area but it really did not make much sense to me. Feeling puzzled, I checked with her a few times but the language barrier made it difficult to understand each other. Unfortunately there wasn’t any other male patrons to demonstrate how it was done. Still trying to figure out where to undress, I saw another lady walked into the pool area where naked men were. It was then that I realised it was alright for these female staffs to be around. While it was weird for me but the rest of the male patrons did not seemed to be bothered with these ladies. They seems oblivious to one another. However the female customers have their own section and males are not allowed to be in. I wasted no time in enjoying the various pools (with varying temperature) even though this Onsen is similar to a typical Singapore Spa. I ended the night looking forward to those Japanese Onsen that are filled with minerals water.

2014 Japan Trip Day 2 – Hokkaido : Asahikawa / Sounkyo Gorge

4 Oct 2014

We started the day early to collect the rental car at 8am. I rented a Nissan (unable to remember the model) for 6 days at ¥39,600 (SGD465). The earliest department store opens at 9.30am so we had to spend some time loitering around empty streets. We gotten some sushi from the convenience stores, only to pass by a McDonald’s (with some regrets). Authentic Japanese food would be preferred over fast food at any time, but those convenience stores sushi weren’t that good, and McDonald’s would have been a better choice.

Up till this time Amber was still wearing her slipper (with socks). We jumped into the 1st department store at 9.30am sharp and took 10 minutes to walk out of it. The shoes are so expensive and it doesn’t make sense even though we were rather desperate. Fortunately we found some affordable shoes in another department store. Amber chose a Fila boots that cost around ¥6,000 (SGD70) and we managed to drive out at 10.30am.

While Japan is also right hand drive, it still took me quite some time to be familiar with their traffic system. Firstly, their traffic light is placed after an intersection, unlike ours that is infront of it. What it means is I have to look further and stop a great distance away from their traffic lights. If I stop just infront of it, I would have technically breach it. Secondly, most roads do not have arrows and that caused some confusion when there were multiple lanes at a junction. They uses direction signs that are mounted on the traffic lights. An example is a double lane with a direction sign stating front and left only. This would allow me to turn left or go straight. However if the sign shows front and right, then a left turn is not allowed. For a Singaporean driving in Japan for the first time, it is really confusing. I was driving rather slowly and keeping to the speed limits.

The purpose of visiting Hokkaido at this time of the year was to view the magnificent autumn. We have seen greenery, flowers and snow. The only thing missing was an autumn maple leave. Having done some research, I have found Sounkyo Gorge as a highly recommended place for autumn viewing. It is one of the first few places where autumn takes place before moving southward.

It was a 70km 1.5 hour drive from Asahikawa (旭川市) to Sounkyo Gorge (層雲峡). Getting there was easy with a GPS. All I had to do was to punch in the telephone number of the resort. I could have used the map codes but I read several reviews that telephone numbers are more accurate and recommended. Once the destination is identify, the GPS will list down multiple options (via expressway, via normal roads, shortest route etc) and upon selection it would start guiding me at every junction. Their GPS system is really accurate and it was about able to detect proximity down to 10 meters.

We passed by many traffic junctions in Asahikawa. It decreases as we drove out of the main city area, and eventually disappear when we enter the rural area. I was driving on an endless route, over a 30km stretch without any traffic junction. That was also the stretch where the autumn colours started coming to life. Amber and I was going “wah wah wah!” and I was tempted to stop for a photography but there wasn’t enough space to park by the roadside. I didn’t want to take the risk of getting into trouble, especially when I was still very unfamiliar driving in this country.

The sky grew darker when we were nearing to Sounkyo Gorge. We arrived Daisetsuzan Sounkyo – Kurodake Ropeway (telephone number 01658-5-3031) at 12pm. Hungry after a 70km drive, we walked around the ropeway compound that is lined up with souvenir shops, as well as restaurants. We settled for lunch in one of the restaurants that was crowded to the rim. It seems to be popular with tourists and the smell was so alluring that we were sucked in right from the doorway. Having had ramen for the whole of yesterday, we decided not to order any form of noodles. After flipping the menu, I ordered a Katsu Don (tasted quite terrible) while Amber ordered fried rice (super tasty). This lunch cost ¥2,360 (SGD27).

With our stomach filled, we proceeded to the ropeway station and ready to ascend up Mount Kurodake. A round trip via the Ropway cost ¥1,950 (SGD23) per ticket, which will bring you up to the 5th station of Mount Kurodake. The autumn scene while ascending was awesome. The best of the autumn during our time of visit was probably around 500 meters above sea level, where the trees turned into a sea of red, yellow, orange, brown, and green. We made a mistake for getting into the ropeway at the end of the queue. A better choice would be to have give that ropeway a miss, allowed the queue behind us to board, so that we could be the first passenger for the next ropeway. Doing so would give us the choice to stand anywhere in the ropeway, which would then get us the window position that presented the best view. By making that mistake, we were squeezed into the middle portion of the ropeway and I had to bite my fingers in regrets when I was unable to capture those spectacular view on my camera. Given my position in the ropeway, I only manged to captured the following shot.

The atmosphere started to change when we ascended higher (probably above 800 meters). As this year autumn started 2 weeks earlier than the predicated period, we kind of were late for the golden period at Mount Kurodake 5th station. That explains why we saw the best colours during the ascend and dull colours withered tree when we were nearing the 5th station. To make the trip even more unfulfilling, the withered surrounding was covered with layers of mist coupled with rain. We didn’t want to waste the time and effort of getting up here, so we did a bit of hike but ended up capturing just misty backgrounds. We could only imagine how awesome it would be to be walking among autumn colours. The rain became heavier and we retreated back to ground level.

Beside heading up to Mount Kurodake, Sounkyo Gorge is also well known for its many waterfalls. Out of which, the 2 most well known being the Ryusei Falls (shooting star falls) and Ginga Falls (Milky Way falls). I did not have the map code for the viewing site and I tried navigating it using physical map, which resulted in us missing the turn and driving into a 8km single direction lane long tunnel. There was no way to stop or make any u-turn and I had to finished the 8km stretch before making an illegal turn between the tunnels break. Driving back was another 8km and we wasted petrol for 16km. Turning back, we missed the turn again (because we did not know that was the turn) and landed in a resort. After some help, we managed to identified the correct spot to turn and finally found the viewing site for these waterfall.

There is a fleet of stairs leading to an alleviated spot that allows both waterfalls to be captured at the same time. We tired climbing those steps (many of them had worn out over the years) with our umbrellas while taking hit from the rain. After around 5 minutes I decided to turn back as it was not worth the trouble or risks (Amber was going rather slow and I could sense that she was struggling with the climb). We walked around the parking area and picked up a red maple leaf that happened to drop before us. It was really beautiful but we could not enjoy the viewing as the rain became heavier. Feeling ruined by the downpour, I decided to head back to Asahikawa (another 70km drive).

We reached our hotel at 6pm and was trying to understand how to get our car park in those mechanic carpark. The hotel staff could not understand English and we had a hard time understanding their Japanese. Ended up I drove away and went around the hotel compound a few times (even turned into a single direction opposite lane as I failed to check the direction signboard) before giving up and heading back to our hotel for a mechanic park. Amber alighted and the staff guided me to the precise point before my car can be locked in and slotted away like a storage. It was my first time using such car park and it really was an experience.

From the lobby staff we found out the stretch of restaurants from Asahikawa Station to our hotel. This is the same stretch where the shopping malls are and where Amber purchased her boots. We couldn’t decide where to dine for dinner. Places that looks good are pricey and places that have affordable menu did not look as good. After more than 30 minutes of trying to find the ideal restaurant, our stomachs took over and we headed into one that had a menu with impressive pictures. We were taken to a cozy “small cubicle” and were offered a ¥980 drink menu. Unable to understand what that was, I declined that offer and opted for a normal menu. Knowing that we aren’t Japanese, the staff brought us an English menu, which I then realised that it was more worth while to take their free flow drink menu at ¥980 (SGD11.50) where I could get to order as many drinks within a 2 hours timeframe. The rule is we can only order a new drink after finishing our previous drink. A mug of beer cost around ¥300 so my decision was a no brainer.

This by far was the best dinner (in term of taste) we had since touching down in Japan. Out of the various dishes we ordered, I personally think that the omelette was best. We tried to have as many combination of the drink list and ended up ordering 6 rounds. I wanted to get a few more rounds but Amber was feeling tipsy. I normally do not drink Japanese Sake in Singapore so I tried to have a bit more during this trip. This dinner cost ¥5,600 (SGD65).

After the fulfilling feast, we went into a Pachinko shop and tried our luck. Not knowing how the game was played, we slotted in ¥1000 (SGD11) and literally starred at the machine. After a “short” 5 minutes of poker face, a staff came over to teach us how it was supposed to be played. The aim is to stir the ball bearings into the centre slot (which there is no way to control, so it is pure luck). I managed to get quite a number of the balls in and after all my balls were depleted, the screen went into some animation and we had no idea what that was. It doesn’t seem like i won anything so we walked out. That was ¥1000 worth of 10 minutes fun.

The walk back to our hotel crosses an alley that look rather interesting. It is a stretch of eatery that seems like a great chill out place. Ended the night packing bags as we will be heading to Furano tomorrow.